Home » 2016 Virginia Tech Football Helmet Ratings: Helpful But Come With Limitations

2016 Virginia Tech Football Helmet Ratings: Helpful But Come With Limitations

NOCSAE urges parents to get all the facts

In its July 2013 statement, NOCSAE said that parents, players, coaches, and athletic directors needed to recognize the many limitations in the Virginia Tech helmet ratings, and expressed the fear that, unless such limitations were considered, "the potential exists for players, parents, coaches, and administrators to overemphasize the role of the helmet in protecting against concussions. This overemphasis increases the likelihood that less attention will be given to other steps that have a more immediate and much greater impact on concussion reduction," such as teaching proper tackling and blocking technique minimizing helmet-to-helmet contact, neck strengthening, proper helmet fit, and better rules enforcement). 

[For more on ways to minimize head injuries in contact and collision sports, click here; for an article on MomsTEAM's Six Pillars of concussion risk management, featured in its new high school football documentary, "The Smartest Team," click here].

NOCSAE has thus urged parents of athletes and athletes to get all the facts about football helmets and concussion protection because "the safety of young athletes is too important to rely on only one partial measurement of helmet performance."

To that end, NOCSAE encourages athletes and parents to carefully review:
  • Hang tags that come with all new football helmets that address the helmet's abilities and limitations
  • Informational booklets developed by manufacturers that contain critical information about the helmet's abilities and limitations
  • Warning information that is prominently and permanently affixed to the exterior of every helmet; and
  • Free downloadable resources created by the Centers for Disease Control regarding concussion recognition, response and prevention. Those resources can be found at www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports.

Indeed, if the finding in the 2013 and 2014 research papers by researchers at the University of Wisconsin [8,11] that newer helmets are not appreciably more protective against concussion than older helmets is replicated in future studies,  it may mean, says lead author McGuine, that "parents shouldn't be alarmed if their kid is being asked to wear a helmet that is three years old, and administrators shouldn't be worried about purchasing the most expensive and/or newest helmets."   

Most important, some experts say, than the helmet brand is helmet fit. As not every helmet is going to fit every player, selecting a helmet that fits correctly - snugly almost to the point of being uncomfortable - will allow the helmet to perform at its best in protecting the player from injury. which includes staying on the player's head and not coming off during play. [2]  

Stay tuned for developments in this continuing story.  

Sources: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University): and NOCSAE


1. Daneshvar DH, Baugh CM, Nowinski CJ, McKee AC, Stern RA, Cantu RC. Helmets and Mouth Guards: The Role of Personal Equipment in Preventing Sport-Related Concussions. Clin Sports Med 2011; 30: 145-163.

2. Torg J, Boden B, Hirsch H, Fowler J, Gaughan J, Comstock RD, Tierney R, Kelly P. Athletic Induced mTBI and Catastrophic Intracranial Injuries: Determining Helmet Efficacy and Predisposing Injury Profiles. Presentation Paper AOSSM 2012.

3. Daniel R, Rowson S, Duma S. Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football. Annals of Biomed Eng 2012: DOI:10.1007/s10439-012-0530-7 (accessed February 15, 2012).

4. McCrory P, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med 2013;47:250-258.

5. Benson B, McIntosh A, Maddocks D, Herring S, Raftery M, Dvorak J. What are the most effective risk-reduction strategies in sport concussion. Br J Sports Med 2013;47:321-326. 

6. Giza C, Kutcher J, Ashwal S, et al. Summary of evidence-based guideline update: Evaluation and management of concussion in sports: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology 2013;DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828d57dd (published online before print March 18, 2013) 

7. E-mail, Stefan Duma to Dustin Fink, unknown date, as reported in "Virginia Tech Responds to NOCSAE Press Release," The Concussion Blog (July 24, 2013)(http://theconcussionblog.com/2013/07/24/virginia-tech-responds-to-nocsae...)(accessed August 5, 2013)

8. McGuine T, Brooks A, Hetzel S, Rasmussen J, McCrea M. "The Association of the Type of Football Helmet and Mouth Guard With the Incidence of Sport-Related Concussion in High School Football Players." Presentation Paper AOSSM, July 13, 2013. Presentation Paper, American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition, October 28, 2013; American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. "Brand/type of helmet, mouthguard may not significantly reduce risk of sport-related concussion in high school football players." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2014.

9. Rowson S, Duma SM, Greenwald RM, Guskiewicz KM, Mihalik JP,Can helmet design reduce the risk of concussion in football?J Neurosurg.  2014; DOI: 10.3171/2014.1.JNS13916(published online January 31, 2014).

10. Rowson S, Duma SM. Brain Injury Prediction: Assessing the Combined Probability of Concussion Using Linear and Rotational Head Acceleration. Ann. Biomed Engineering 2013;41(5):873-882. DOI: 10.1007/s10439-012-0731-0

11. National Operating Standards  NOCSAE Board Approves First Helmet Standard to Address Concussion Forces. June 14, 2014 press release. (accessed at http://nocsae.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/NOCSAE-June-Board-Meeting-r...)

12. Jeff Z. Klein. "Spartanh Hockey Helmets Going Under Microscope." New York Times. July 22, 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/sports/hockey/for-safety-hockey-helmet...)(accessed July 23, 2014). 

13. McGuine TA, Hetzel S, McCrea M, Brooks AM.  Protective Equipment and Player Characteristics Associated With the Incidence of Sport-Related Concussion in High School Football Players.  Am J Sports Med. 2014;20(10)(published online ahead of print, July 24, 2014 as doi:10.1177/036354651541926. 

Updated July 16, 2014 to reflect both Virginia Tech's May 2014 STAR ratings and NOCSAE's response; further updated July 23, 2014 to include information from the New York Times article [footnote 12]; further updated on July 29, 2014 to reflect publication of the McGuine findings in a peer-reviewed journal, which had, to that point, only been presented as research papers (footnote 8).